Grant amnesty to Bae, U.S. urges North KoreaThe U.S. State Department on Tuesday called for North Korea to grant amnesty to Kenneth Bae after the mother of the Korean-American man ended her five-day trip to Pyongyang.
Bae has been detained in North Korea for the past 11 months.
“We continue to urge the North Korean authorities to grant him special amnesty and immediate release,” said Jen Psaki, spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, on Tuesday.
Bae, a tour group organizer and Christian activist, has been held in North Korea since November and was sentenced in April to 15 years of hard labor by the reclusive nation’s Supreme Court. He was convicted of committing “hostile acts” against the government for his missionary work.
Bae’s mother, Myunghee Bae, was permitted to visit her 45-year-old son in the hospital in Pyongyang and flew into North Korea last Thursday.
She said in a statement on Monday - the day she departed - that she was able to see her son three times at the hospital.
“I was relieved to see that Kenneth’s health has been improving because of the medical treatment he has received for the last two months,” she said.
Bae suffers from diabetes and other health problems, according to his family, and lost 50 pounds before being transferred to a hospital in August.
“It broke my heart to leave him behind,” Bae said. She urged Washington to do everything within its power to secure her son’s release.
“His year-long imprisonment has taken a heavy toll not only on Kenneth but on the whole family,” she said. “Every day the pain and anxiety continue to carve a deep scar on all of our hearts.”
Robert King, U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, was scheduled to go to Pyongyang in August on a mission to secure Bae’s release, but North Korea retracted the invitation at the last minute, blaming annual joint U.S.-South Korea military drills.
Psaki said it was difficult for her to speculate on the significance of North Korea allowing Bae’s mother to visit.
“It’s hard for me to do in terms of getting into their heads and determining what it means or what message they’re trying to send.
Obviously, they can take a step by releasing him, which we have long called for,” she said.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]